updated 01:55 pm EDT, Tue April 8, 2008
MS End-to-End Computing
Microsoft today suggested a major change to Internet technology that it claims could dramatically improve the security of users online. Nicknamed End-to-End Trust, the system would take the existing philosophy behind the company's existing Trustworthy Computing for PCs and extend it to the whole Internet. Devices, data, and software would incorporate a "trusted stack" of code that authenticates the user at every step of a transaction online.
The technique would more readily protect against identity theft and also ensure that content using the system is legitimate and keep private data away from public view, Microsoft says. The Windows developer argues that its proposed system would be open in its creation and has set up an open forum to discuss the merits of the system rather than designing the system solely on its own.
Microsoft's suggestion may prove controversial. The company's existing Trustworthy Computing implementation depends in part on digital rights management (DRM), which in many cases is already used to prevent copying of music and video as well as to degrade the playback of certain HD movies on unauthorized hardware. Critics have chastised such systems for potentially infringing on fair use and also note that it could be used for anti-competitive purposes, such as disabling or restricting software from rival manufacturers.
Open-source proponents have also resisted attempts to spread Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing efforts, warning that any software would have to be subject to an approval process before it would be allowed to run on most computers. Most open-source projects often undergo frequent public revisions before their final releases.